In a calamitous first-half spell spanning only six minutes, the Cosmos surrendered their place in the 2017 US Open Cup to a spirited and opportunistic Reading United team.
Perhaps the live streaming gods were being merciful to Cosmos Country, as the official Open Cup stream on the US Soccer website was down for the entire first half. So the only high spot of the first 45 was lost to the ether, when Kalif Alhassan opened the scoring on 11 minutes for the NYC Originals.
Just as those of us trying to watch in New York were about to give up on seeing the action, someone from the Cosmos camp revved up a Facebook live stream from a vantage point high in the stands, only for horrors to unfold before our very strained eyes. In just a handful of minutes, defensive lapses from a back three of Ochieng, Mendes and Barnes allowed the plucky PDL side to run out to a 3-1 lead. For those of you left frustrated by the blackout in coverage - consider yourselves fortunate.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the official live stream kicked in for the second half and we were subjected to some of the most hilariously, yet endearingly amateur announcing this writer has ever witnessed:
“The Cosmos play it out to, um, another Cosmos player”
And the prognosis didn’t immediately improve for the team itself either. Reading came out strong and almost instantly added another before the commentators had even worked out how to pronounce half-time substitute Dejan Jakovic’s name.
It wasn’t until the PDL team were denied another goal by Jimmy Maurer that the NYC Originals finally started to assert their authority. Throwing men forward, the Cosmos used their wingbacks to great effect, with Jimmy Mulligan the lynchpin of the resurgence. Many times the native Long Islander found acres of space on the right to link up threateningly with Alhassan. And it was this combination that gave Cosmos Country a glimmer of hope. Surging down the right, Alhassan’s, cross found a diving Danny Szetela who headed in powerfully to restore hope.
From here on in it was almost all Cosmos, and immediately Reading began the long game of wasting time. As Mulligan, Alhassan and Restrepo kept dragging the team forward, the officials struggled to prevent tempers from flaring and our friends in the announcers’ booth kept providing the gems:
“The air is as thick as, um...a pound cake!”
For a time it seemed like this was another edition of the Cardiac Cosmos that the US Open Cup has come to love in the last four years. There certainly was a palpable aura of belief in the players that they would get the tying, or even winning goal. But Reading continued to run down the clock, with United defender Adams even going as far as getting himself sent off for the cause. Though I’ve never seen so many cards issued for time wasting, Cosmos fans will feel frustrated by the officiating. Once again, our friends in the booth summed it up perfectly:
“The sands of the hourglass are ebbing away”
And as the chances slipped by and the final whistle blew, the Cardiac Cosmos fell to the turf, arrested in embarrassment.
In the same way that the Cosmos benefitted in previous US Open runs from being underestimated by the opposition, here the Cosmos could be blamed for not taking this game seriously enough. Gio Savarese chose to start with a back three, presumably hoping to flood the midfield and put the game away early. While Alhassan’s opener seemed to prove him right, the pacey opportunism of Reading golascorers Marie, Micaletto and Pierrot shouldn’t have caught an NASL team by surprise. United deserve the plaudits for taking their chances and showing a lot of talent, but the Cosmos should have expected Reading to keep it tight and play on the break. That’s what underdogs do.
Of course the massive elephant in the room is the distraction of that impending trip to Saudi Arabia.
In all certainty, every single Cosmos fan wants to see a deep cup run, with the MLS matchups and local derbies it can entail. And that’s not to mention the reward of a CONCACAF Champions League spot for going all the way. Surely nobody would rather watch a meaningless exhibition game taking place halfway around the world on a weekend when the team should be playing a home game.
Any Cosmos fans who were actually left watching by the end of the game tonight didn’t need reminding, but those lovely guys in the booth obliged anyway:
“You can probably consider this an upset , I’d say”
I’d say you’re right there.